Article of the month: September 2014

Article of the month: September 2014


Xue, M., et al. (2014). "Chinese visiting scholars' academic socialization in US institutions of higher education: a qualitative study." Asia Pacific Journal of Education: 1-18.


Keywords: academic socialization; Chinese visiting scholars; marginalization; higher education



Socialization as a theoretical concept has been increasingly applied to higher education over the past several decades. However, little research examines international visiting scholars’ overseas academic socialization experiences. Rooted in socialization theory, this one-year qualitative study explores 15 Chinese visiting scholars’ lived experiences in socialization to the US academic community through observations and interviews. The data reveal that the strategies used for academic socialization include motivation, social networking development, academic recognition, goal orientation, and community involvement. Besides, this paper analyses the reasons for their encountered dilemmas such marginalization, time constraint, and external critique. Implications for Chinese Scholarship Committee (CSC) policy makers, international visiting scholars, and researchers are provided.



This is one of the few ethnographic studies focus on short-term (ranged from 6 months to a year) Chinese visiting scholars’ socialization towards the US higher education institutions (HEIs) academic community. The study can be a good start from those who are interested in researching the experiences of short-term mobile researchers.


This study was carried in responding to the increasing need for better understanding and supporting Chinese visiting scholars abroad. There has been increasing number of Chinese scholars visiting HEIs abroad for 6 months or a year, such as U.S.A., U.A and countries in Europe such as Germany, France and whilst there has been lack of in-depth understanding of the experiences of Chinese visiting scholars in particular regarding their academic and socialization process in the host institution and community process. Although there have been an increasing number of researches on international students living and studying abroad, research on international visiting scholars’ activities, feelings, and strategies involved in academic socialization is scant, in particular short-term visiting scholars.


This study provides literature review on socialization (in particular academic socialization) which is a useful theory in the field of acculturation. More specifically, the study reviewed the socialization of international students and academic socialization of faculty in the US HEIs.


Findings were categories into two groups, strategies for academic socialization and dilemmas during academic socialization. In terms of strategies, motivation appeared to play a determinate role in orienting the participants to work towards the acquisition of the US academic culture, values, norms, and expectations and towards fulfilling their goals. Secondly, goal orientation, in other words, pre-established goals appeared to have oriented the participants to make a step-by-step progress in scholarly performance. Thirdly, social networking developing, which refers to social interactions between the visiting scholars and individuals of the local institutions and communities as well as among visiting scholars from other countries and with supervisors for current and future research collaboration. Another common strategy emerged from the data was community involvement, which played important role in assisting participants gaining a comprehensive and deep understanding of US culture and history by active involvement in the local community, in particular, church events. Interestingly, some of the participants developed understanding of academic cultural differences between the US and China from involvement of the local community.


Regarding the dilemmas during academic socialization, marginalization and time constraint appeared to be two main challenges. Findings indicate that marginalization is mainly caused by mis-match of expectations between Chinese visiting scholars and mentors (supervisors) from host institutions. Interestingly, it seems that the Chinese visiting scholars share similar expectations from their supervisors as many Chinese students which is to expect supervisors to provide thoroughly and step by step guidance. In addition, lack of collaboration and communication between home and host institutions appeared to be one main factor for lacking of appropriate academic support for the Chinese visiting scholars. Besides, language and cultural barriers limit their communication and interactions with advisors and engagement in academic activities, which marginalizes these Chinese visiting scholars to be a group without any sense of belongingness. Another common constrain among the participants is time limitation (ranged from 6 months to a year), some participants were frustrated by limited visiting time. Several participants in science disciplines agreed that one year was not enough.


Although the study investigated short-term scholars from one particular country, some of the finding potentially could be applicable for mobile researchers from other regions either for short-term or long-term, such as culturally specific challenges, support from host and home institutions, motivation, socialization strategies and the factor of time.


** If you have questions concerning the ‘Article of the month’, please get in touch with Dr Linda Hui Yang, Project Officer at Durham University.